Hot enough for you?
That seems to have been the question of the week, all along the East Coast. From Boston to New York to Philadelphia to Washington, the residents of those cities sweltered in a mix of heat and humidity usually reserved for the masses below the Mason-Dixon Line.
That would be you and me.
Every morning and every evening, all week long, the national news shows sent folks out to do “man on the street” interviews with all sorts of folks who were quite certain that they were experiencing the worst summer weather of their collective lifetimes — and the weather bureau backed them up, reporting record highs in several locales.
Now isn’t that just like a bunch of Yankees. Hey, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the sun! One lady appeared on television, sweat dripping from her brow, in hose and wearing a white sweater over her outfit. It was 100 degrees in the shade and this chick’s wearing hose. And a sweater. Don’t they know anything up there? I bet they can’t drive in the heat, either.
One report said that schools in several cities canceled remediation sessions because of the soaring temperatures. Harrumph! We never close schools down here because of the heat!
Well, the heat wave that has plagued the Eastern corridor has now made its way down to the Georgia Piedmont and we are sweltering just like our counterparts to the north. The only thing is, we are used to it. Summer heat and the South just seem to go together, like collard greens and cornbread or like salted peanuts and ice cold Coke.
Let me tell you, I have been to some hot places in my life, and I can truly testify that sometimes it really is “not the heat, but the humidity.”
Here’s a news flash for you. New Orleans gets hot in the summertime. In fact, I think the word “sultry” was coined for the sole purpose of describing conditions in that city in July and August. If you have read Tennessee Williams’ classic “A Streetcar Named Desire,” you know all about the stereotypical South — pre air-conditioning — where men sat around in wife-beater undershirts and women couldn’t possibly fan themselves enough to find relief from the oppressive heat. Psychologists, obviously educated beyond their intelligence, blamed the heat and humidity for the Southerners’ lust and passion and murderous tempers.
Macon is another hot place. My aunt and uncle used to run the Shrimp Boat in Macon — on Pio Nona Avenue. Most summers I would visit them for a week or so and, trust me on this one, the residents of the cities plagued by this week’s heat have nothing on folks who live in Macon.
And it gets hot right here where we live, too. Can I get a witness?
It’s not a big problem these days, of course. Most of us have fans and central air and enough sense to do whatever outside chores that have to be done early in the morning. The rest of the time we stay inside. If we do venture out, we only go from our houses to our cars — which are also air-conditioned — and from our cars to some other controlled environment — like the mall.
It wasn’t that way back in the day, of course. Back in the day Southerners had to be quite creative about keeping cool. Why do you think all those covered porches were built? I’m pretty sure that lemonade was invented in Valdosta.
My mama used to hang wet sheets over all the windows when it got really, really hot, and my daddy would spray the top of the house with the hose. Have you seen the cartoons of the guy sitting in his boxers with a fan blowing over a block of ice? They are usually captioned “redneck air-conditioning.” Laugh if you want to. It works.
My daddy used to say that he preferred winter to summer because he could always put on more and more clothes to stay warm, but he could only take off so many clothes to get cool. He was right. But I and most of the boys I ran around with when I was little wore the bare minimum from Memorial Day to Labor Day — a pair of cut-offs and a pair of step-ins.
I used to be “brown as an Indian,” according to my mother, by the Fourth of July.
And if it got really, really hot someone from the volunteer fire department might take pity on us little linthead children and open up a fire hydrant or two. My children have been everywhere and had everything, but no slip-and-slide in the world can compare with the fun of playing in an open fire hydrant.
Those were the days. But we were talking about now.
Of the current heat wave, all I can say is this, too, shall pass. Y’all try to stay cool. I think I’ll spend this weekend splitting wood. I bet it’s going to be really cold next January and a hot fire will feel really nice.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.